Black lung: What’s Obama going to do for miners?

July 8, 2009 by Ken Ward Jr.


Black lung is on the rise in the Appalachian coalfields, making a comeback after decades of decline, as the graphic above from the Centers for Disease Control shows.

But a new court ruling puts the problem squarely back in the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration’s court, and we’ll have to see if a new union-backed nominee to run MSHA decides to speed up the administration’s plans for dealing with the problem.

A federal appeals court has rejected efforts by a Kentucky coal miner to force MSHA to write tougher limits for coal dust exposure that causes the deadly disease.

On Monday, a three-judge panel from the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Letcher County miner Scott Howard. Last March, Howard had sued the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration over the agency’s prolonged inaction on respirable dust regulations.

The court ruled that Howard had failed to exhaust his other options before going to court, by not first filing a petition with MSHA asking the agency to write new dust regulations.

But don’t forget: MSHA has been stalling for years on writing these new rules, and most recently the Obama administration said it would need until April 2011 to even publish a proposed rulemaking.

joe-main-008a.jpgI guess we’ll see what Obama’s pick to run MSHA, former UMWA safety director Joe Main, has to say about this — as soon as the Senate gets around to confirming him. (Memo to Senate Democrats, courtesy of the Pump Handle blog: Bush’s choice Mr. Dave Lauriski did not have a confirmation hearing, and was confirmed within 9 days — 9 days — of his nomination).

3 Responses to “Black lung: What’s Obama going to do for miners?”

  1. […] Ward Jr., writing on the Charleston (W.Va.) Gazette’s Coal Tattoo blog, notes that black lung disease is once again on the rise in Appalachian coal country, and has been steadily climbing since the late […]

  2. […] Bush administration took office, and Bush’s MSHA chief Dave Lauriski dropped the proposal. Ward notes in his Coal Tattoo blog that the decision against Howard puts the ball back in MSHA’s court, and wonders whether Joe […]

  3. […] Appalachian Citizens Law Center tried going to court to force MSHA to tighten the dust standard, but lost that case earlier this yea….  The Obama administration, meanwhile, has said it would take until 2011 to even publish a notice […]

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